by Brooke Fairgray from Saben
Fee is an empress. A beautifully humble leader building an inclusive community of strong and empowered women via her fashion business Shine On. The journey started circa 2002 selling vintage clothing on trade me to supplement her income. With a strong following of fashion conscious mums and fast forward to 2015 when Shine On took a new direction representing major fashion brands. There is no looking back! Now with a staff count of 40, a new HQ elevating both the online and in store experience and home to over 90 fashion brands it is no wonder women near and far flock to Shine On.
The latest to feature in our women in business portrait series we chat to Fee about her journey of business, motherhood, building an empire, mantras she lives by, and empowering women.
Just a quickie to fill in the blanks - tell us about you and your family and where you live.
I am mum to two lovely boys. Ten year old Eli and 5 year old Nate. We live on the Hibiscus Coast just north of Auckland. Initially moving here because house prices were so much better but staying for the beaches...the lifestyle and the community!
AND now down to business – the journey ligit started on trademe?! Talk us through the inception…
Yes the journey legit started on TradeMe. I was between jobs and super poor! And started selling off my wardrobe full of clothes to help with our mortgage and food bills. Back then TradeMe sellers were few and my vintage clothing items reached phenomenal amounts. My success on TradeMe inspired both my hubby and I to take up op shopping again in order to feed our following on TradeMe with new vintage buys every week.
When you started Shine On, was what is now always the vision? or did this evolve with the process of learning and discover?
I have always had a strong vision of making a difference in the world. Doing things for others has always filled my bucket. I initially trained in social work but found that the job with the long full time hours and the work was not going to be conducive to being able to spend the time I wanted to with my family. I knew I had to do something else and I really fell into this business with the success of my Trademe account Shine On. I always knew I had something special with Shine On. The same customers just kept coming back. I knew that if I could in some way get people to supply me with product that I had the ladies that wanted to buy it! Finding people to supply me was the hardest part.
What gave you the courage to start representing brands in 2015?
I always wanted to represent brands. No one would take the chance on me. Facebook was quite new back then too. I would try and try...letting brands know that I had over a thousand women ready and waiting to purchase and if only they would let me sell their wares! But suppliers were nervous about online businesses and I would get rejection email after rejection email! But persistence was key! The first business that said yes to me was SASS. Sass still remains one of our biggest brands on Shine On and I know we changed their NZ sales overnight!
Is there any ONE facet of the business you can accredit the growth?
The growth I believe was mainly due to my Brother Cliff joining Shine On. I had the customers and had started to employ staff to pack but I needed brains in the business. Gene and I have always been creatives and we needed someone to help with the actual hiring of staff, contracts, financial control, leases etc etc. He came to help me with something small one day. Saw the potential and jumped on board. He now runs the whole business and loves it! Making someone with complementary skills to ours an equal shareholder in the business was the best business decision I ever made. I 100% believe that when a small business is struggling to grow...hiring people with skills you do not have is the cleverest thing to do.
2017 and 2018 were MASSIVE years for you and the business. How did you balance this with your kids/family life?
I admit it was rough at times...and I spent a lot of nights crying and wondering if it was worth it. We actually have over 40 staff now...and staff has been the hardest part of running a business. Our team is absolutely the best team, but making sure that everyone is getting what they need, career wise, money wise, that everyone is happy, well it almost broke me. There was so much learning for me. Learning to take it one day at a time. Not rushing to have everything perfect straight away and really being kind to myself around the fact that success comes from doing the wrong thing, learning and then doing the right thing. You can't go from 0 to 100 without a few bumps in the road. No one is perfect, including me and I had a lot to learn about management and how best to deal with problems when they arose.
What did the new bigger HQ mean for Shine on and your customers?
The bigger HQ meant a bigger selection of products and better systems. A much better work environment for our team.
More on the topic of “balance” and our own in-house consciousness of reconnecting to yourself and to the present; how do you make time to switch off and recharge?
I am seeing a life coach/fitness coach mentor at the moment, Richard Bruce, with regards to this. Much of my balance is starting to come now. But only when I began to implement boundaries. I hit 40 and with it came the realization that health, sleep, boundaries, and balance were far more valuable than all of the money and success in the world. I prioritise all of these things now over work. In fact...while answering these questions right now I can tell you I have spent 4 days at home in a row with a sick child and have had no work pressure whatsoever. That to me is the meaning of success.
Advice to other women doing the juggle?
DELEGATE. Everyone says this but it is hard to let go when your business is your baby. The truth is. NO ONE will do the job like you do it. They will do it differently and learning to be ok with that is the hardest but the most important part. What it comes down to is what is most important to you. Your health and well being and a life well lived...or your way always. I chose and will continue to choose health.
Shine on has a MASSIVE focus on making women feel beautiful and empowered, can you share a bit on this?
We are a tribe. I have run Shine On for years and in a way it has been my friend through lots of trials and tribulations. I started Shine On before I had my first child. There were long nights of no sleep. Scary nights at the hospital. Often I would chat with my customers about these events. The closeness between Shine On and its customers has remained. It is a beautiful place where we allow absolutely NO negative self talk. EVER. Our diligence to this I think has resulted in a beautiful platform where women feel encouraged and inspired to simply be themselves. We are not your normal fashion company.
AND giving back – did this come about from something close to your heart or do you feel social-good is something All or more businesses should adopt into their consciousness?
The giving back came from me. I simply cannot live happily without actively giving away some of what comes in. It feels good to do good. It has been incredible to bring my best friend into the company. The friend that I met doing social work. She runs the charity side of Shine On with me and hopefully one day this will be a much bigger part of our business than it is now. Our customers feel inspired and good about shopping with us and really Shine On is one big feel good company. I definitely want to encourage other businesses to look at what their goals are. Money is awesome and provides you with wonderful life freedom...but there is so much more to life...and boy it feels good to make a difference.
Talk to us about working with your husband Gene? (Goodness knows working with the person you are married too isn’t for everyone!)
Gene and I are different to most husband wife relationships. I don't know why. We just are. We feel strange when we are not together and find working together really easy. I'm not sure if this is called co dependent or what but we are super happy so it works for us. We are best friends. We both have time away from each other. Gene has regular beers with mates and loves indoor cricket. Big snowboarding trips to Japan for ten days have now become the norm for him every year. I have girlfriends that i see regularly. But we work together really well and really love each others company so i guess we just lucked it. We are really great for each other creatively. Again .. his skills are complementary to mine. So we don't try and mess with each others jobs. We just stick to what we are good at. Gene is one of those all round nice guys. Its hard not to get along with him.
Saben joined the Shine On community last year with Kelly your accessories buyer. (Thank you for having us!!) Talk to us about the art of delegation, learning to let go after personally nurturing something for so long….
Working with Kelly has been super fun from day dot. She has an incredibly loyal and gorgeous personality. Shine On was her dream job and I have always felt very very grateful to her for being grateful! Being an employer can be hard...but Kelly is a person that lives for fashion...doing the right thing by Shine On and she wants to be a part of every event! Which helps me so much as I am simply not the most social person.
Talk to us about leading a team of 30, mostly women?
Well its a team of over 40 now! Can you believe it! To be honest I have let go of a lot of the management. We now have a fantastic General Manager Simon who with my brother Cliff takes care of our fabulous team.
Do your business philosophies spill over into your home life and style?
Summer plans? Yes! As much time with my family and extended family as I can manage! And I have a few fiction novels I want to get through!
Summer style – what are five must-haves you can get at Shine On?
5 must haves for summer? I believe that a pair of Lovelee souls are an absolute must have.
The heels you need are the Toeys from Django and Juliette which we had brought in for us especially as they were so incredible and we simply had to have them!
You switch between Saben Matilda crossbody and the Bex handbag in chestnut we pictured you with - what drew you to these styles?
I love everything SABEN! Matilda was the perfect size for me. I LOVED the look. And the Bex just hit the spot with its fabulous slouchy oversized feel. Bought out my inner boho!
Both bags were such incredible quality. 100% my picks!
New styles landing daily. For more from Fee and her incredible team visit https://shineon.co.nz/ and for your daily does of inspo join them on Instagram @shineon.co.nz https://www.instagram.com/shineon.co.nz/